How do you know when a poem is finished?
I almost misinterpreted this question to mean, “how do you know when you have reached the final lines of a poem?” Because it’s not always the same, is it? Sometimes you find the end before you find the middle.
I will say that the poems I’ve had the most fun writing were often very voice-driven, if in my case usually a weird voice, so that the end ideally comes quite naturally as the end of a conversation or a monologue would, and the middle ideally leads to the end without the need for much fixing, and the beginning to the middle…I wish it was always like that!
Some poems, the ones I’ve had the least fun writing, are kind of like scabs you pick at when you really shouldn’t. There are so many moving parts at play, and changing one thing has major implications somewhere else, but, ah, you need to change it, and so, but, what if…In that case you can never tell when you’re done. The poem has become like a cursed object and you must put it away and do something else for awhile, give it time to cool down and work out its problems on its own.